Savoring Garden Grace

WhenWhen my son and granddaughters were with us in the first days of this new year, my thiirteen year old granddaughter wanted to paint in the prayer garden at our church. While she sketched and painted with oil pastels, I savored being back in this space after a long absence. I have written before about this small garden and ancient oak tree. I have photographed the labyrinth and written about its prayer walk. The word I chose for a focus word for 2020 is savor but I didn’t even think intentionally about that. My joy in being back there, watching Maddie take it all in and put her impressions into her work was complete.

Later, when I hung her painting on my wall, it came to mind that savoring was just what we were doing. Although there were benches there, my back injury keeps me walking, so I walked the prayer walk and around the garden paths over and over. I took photos of Maddie, and dappled sunlight through a dozen different kinds of leaves.

The walker I need to use now does not travel as well on grass or sand or pebbles, so that part of walking was a different effort for me. It was a listening walk for me. I heard the rustle of oak leaves, wind, scattering dry leaves, soft notes from a wind chime, distant sounds of a train and cars, closer sounds of nearby lawn care. She was absorbed in creating. We savored this place and this time. When I made a turn in the labyrinth, I saw that the wheels of my walker had left tracks in the spiral next to me, reminding me I leave prints behind regardless of  my manner or speed. I won’t forget that lesson. I love Maddie’s art work and enjoy it often. But the picture of her dear head bent over her work will always accompany it in my mind.

 

A Growing Edge

It is the last day of 2019. Will my thoughts be of the past year or will I pause on the cusp of a new beginning? I am asking questions. What is my growing edge? How am I able to move beyond unwanted circumstance and find new wonder, new ways to encourage, new resolve? What is your growing edge?

“Look well to the growing edge. All around us worlds are dying and new worlds are being born;all around us life is dying and life is being born. The fruit ripens on the tree, the roots are silently at work in the darkness of the earth against a time when there shall be no new lives, fresh blossoms, green fruit. Such is the growing edge! It is the extra breath from the exhausted lung, the one more thing to try when all else has failed, the upward reach of life when weariness closes in upon all endeavor. This is the basis of hope in moments of despair, the incentive to carry on when times are out of joint and men have lost their reason, the source of confidence when worlds crash and dreams whiten into ash. The birth of the child – life’s most dramatic answer to death – this is the growing edge incarnate. Look well to the growing edge”.  ~ Howard Thurman

Seeing for the First Time

I was given a gift of waiting yesterday. When I finished a medical appointment I waited outside for my kind daughter in law to finish a meeting of her own and come back to drive me. Our mid October weather was refreshing, perfect for walking. Most hospitals  have landscaped outside areas, many changed out with annuals seasonally. But years ago, some wise plan included a group of Bald Cypress trees where I walked. Since I was on a sidewalk at the edge of a parking area where the trees are planted on a sloping lawn, it was easy to admire the shape of tree and the grace of drooping foliage.

I noticed the ground near my walkway was dotted with odd cylindrical shapes I recognized as Cypress knees. They had been sliced off even with the ground so that the inside was exposed as a cross section. This left dozens of them, scattered randomly beyond the tree nearest me, an art gallery on the ground!  The photograph above is only one of many I took, every one beautifully unique. A few fragments of grass and cypress needles garnished each whorled creation, a palette of cream and bronze and browns.

We once planted one of these trees in our yard, recommended by a gardening friend as one of the most underrated trees in our area. It did not grow knees, but structures can emerge from the root system that allow adaptation to wet sites. The knees I saw yesterday were on the down side of a slope, even emerging on the other side of a sidewalk. I wondered if slicing them off endangered the trees, so I read more about them.

I found that this tree grows slowly for about 200 years, growing up to 150 feet tall and it usually lives for 600 years. Some are said to survive for over 1000 years. Like our beloved Oak Trees, generations pass under their branches.

The answer to my question?  Unlike broad-leafed trees, the cypress won’t send up new root sprouts from the wound. According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, carefully trimming the knees will not harm the tree. In this case, it provides beauty for anyone who stops to notice, possibly thousands passing by on the way to a hospital room or a doctor’s office. I am grateful for a season in time and life to walk, to wait, and to pay attention.  You see, I have been to this place many times, but this is the first time I walked, waited, and paid attention.

 

 

T

Stitched Together

Photograph of briar stitching on a crazy quilt made by Mary Clyde Terrell, 1887 – 1977.

This week our sons, one of our granddaughters,  and my husband traveled to North Texas for the burial of Joe’s brother, Pasco Parker. My stage of recovery from a spinal injury did not allow me to travel that distance. In the days they were gone, naturally a flood of family memories and reflections surfaced as I pictured the gathering that was taking place.

There were 5 brothers in Joe’s family of origin. Now he, the youngest,  remains, along with his oldest sibling, a sister. As those siblings decrease in number, the increase in numbers of their descendants is great. Family. Stitched together by blood and bone.

Over 42 years ago I lost the grandmother whose gnarled hands lovingly created the art of stitches pictured above. But there remained so much more than I could have then imagined.  When she passed into eternal life,  her family and legacy of faith grew and continued. As our family leans into the days and years ahead, there is certainty along with uncertainty.  There has been and will be loss. But there is also continuing connection, something we cannot lose. Those who have gone before and those who are to come are stitched together.

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving Prints

When we moved in 2016, there were many choices made about keeping. After so many years and so many moves in our married life, Joe and I were joining households with our son Ben and his wife Kristen, our granddaughter Nora (at the time, 2 years old) and Oliver, who was born later that year. Every move meant sorting and packing and rearranging to fit us into new space. As years went by, we changed some things, discarded some things, and  of course, acquired some things. As much work as each move entailed, I always enjoyed the part of unpacking where we chose what would go where, and the ways in which we would make the new place home.  When we did that, I invariably linked many things sentimentally with where we had acquired them, how they had previously been used, and remembered their story.

This small handprint is part of a pair of handprints on a mirror. The mirror is part of a larger wooden piece which we found in the attic of our beloved Victorian house in our hometown, Jacksonville, TX. The house was built in 1904 by John Wesley Love and has its own story here: https://mappingsforthismorning.blogspot.com/2010/10/home_3697.html

I am not sure of the origin of this piece, but I am sure it is part of something else – a mantel, the top of an organ, I don’t know. The original mirror suffered damage in one of the moves so we had that replaced but we have found a place to hang this in every home we have made since 1982. I was sure we wanted to keep it with us this time. Only after I had it hung in my bedroom (over a fireplace) here did I notice the sweet reminders that a granddaughter had left her touch. It must have been while the piece was sitting down on the floor waiting to be moved or hung. It must have been Nora, who was 2 at the time. MIrrors are always a fascination, a mystery to babies and toddlers. This week, she started Kindergarten, out the door in her school uniform.. In what seems like only a few heartbeats, she is reaching for new mysteries, leaving more handprints.

I know that no matter how much she grows, Nora has and will always leave her touch, her handprint on not just a mirror, but on me, a God given blessing. The same is true for all my grandchildren . I  don’t know  how the marks I leave behind will be noticed  or make a difference, but I am aware that I am leaving prints behind as well.

Considering the Circumstances

When we began landscaping the large back yard of our current home 2 years ago, some of the plants I wanted to include were oakleaf hydrangeas. Unlike the pretty pink and blue mophead blooms, these flowers are greenish-white when they are young, picking up subtle shades of pink and brown as they age. After new flowers stop coming, the blooms stay on the plant and look lovely as they mature.

The foliage is different, too. Lobed leaves are bright green in spring and fall, turning brilliant shades of burgundy and orange as autumn turns into winter. They are also interesting shrubs in winter since the bark peels back, revealing the dark layer beneath. We planted several at the east end of our back porch where we could watch them as they changed. One plant did not survive the first winter which was more severe than usual. The others have come into their own this year. I almost missed the first blooms since I was seldom outside for weeks during the beginning of my recovery. Part of my determination to aid healing has been to go outside for a few minutes at least each day and walk on the porch if not in the garden. After I discovered the first tight green buds of beginning flowers, I made sure I checked on their progress.

Often, the smallest lessons learned on this porch and others we have called home teach me Garden Grace. While admiring the progress of these blooms, I remembered that these shrubs bloom on the prior year’s growth.

I may not feel very productive or useful in these days of being homebound and restricted, but the healing of bone, body, and spirit happening now may provide my ability to bloom in the future.

“If, then, we desire a simple test of the quality of our spiritual life, a consideration of the tranquillity, gentleness, and strength with which we deal with the circumstances of our outward life will serve us better than anything…It is a test that can be applied anywhere and at any time. Tranquillity, gentleness and strength, carrying us through the changes of weather, the ups and downs of the route, the varied surface of the road; the inequalities of family life, emotional and professional disappointments, the sudden intervention of bad fortune or bad health, the rising and falling of our religious temperature. This is the threefold imprint of the Spirit on the souls surrendered to his great action.”  From The Spiritual Life by Evelyn Underhill

Return

When rainfall dampens the brown, crusted, outstretched arms of these ancient oaks, a reenactment of  beauty begins. Delicate green fronds curl around the branches. The verdant festoon is  called “resurrection fern” because, in dry weather, the fern’s fronds curl up, turn brown, and seem to be dead—that is, until the next rain, when they turn green and spring back to life.

Resurrection fern is the common name of an epiphytic plant that in our part of the country grows most often on the massive limbs of live oaks..

I never tire of seeing this happen. As I write today, I feel as if it has begun to rain for me. My long absence from this blog as well as the two others I regularly write posts for has been a dry time for me, and I have missed both the writing and the exchange with readers.

During the past year, my husband, Joe, has lost most of his vision due to retinal bleeding and glaucoma. There have been multiple medical appointments, injections, and laser surgeries for him. Loss of vision is never easy. He has met challenge after challenge with courage but also great sadness.

In mid April, I fell, resulting in a compression fracture of a lumbar vertebra with subsequent surgical injections, hospitalization, some unwelcome complications, and an addition to my summer wardrobe: a molded brace. Uncomfortable? Pain? Yes. Restrictions, certainly. But also so much support and help from our family and friends. Since we live with our youngest son, Ben, his wife Kristen and their children, they added helping us with all we needed to their already busy schedules. Right now, Ben is making pot roast for our dinner while 2 preschoolers “help”, Kristen is working in the yard, and they will do our laundry tomorrow!  Our oldest son and his wife, Sean and Teion, have helped so much  in numerous ways, including hours in the ER with me.  Our son in Nevada, Jeremy, calls and texts almost every day. Always attentive, our family has made sure we are cared for.

I had to hand over my calendar to others for all of Joe’s appointments as well as mine. Close friends from our church brought meals and coordinated driving in the early weeks, stayed with me during surgery, prayed for us, and along with our sons, daughters, and grandchildren have given help and poured encouragement over us. I cannot say Thank You enough. To all of them. To God, who blessed us with these dear ones in our lives to love us and care for us.

There is a great deal of healing and work yet to come. But there is also hope and always, God’s presence.  Today I feel the rain begin.

.

 

Here. Now. This.

Red Baron Peach blossoms, February 28, 2019

Here. Now. This.

Now.

I want to notice.

I want to pay attention

to beauty that won’t wait

to music that may fade

to chances to be kind

 

We planted several fruit trees, including a small Red Baron peach tree in our back yard in 2017. That winter, one unusual hard freeze produced a couple of 19 degree nights so several of the trees did not survive. The little peach tree produced a few leaves in the Spring and stayed with us. Last winter brought more cold than is typical for us. The tree   looked like a 3 feet tall stick. When the roses nearby were blooming in January and February, we often noticed the sad little stick. Then, proving survivorship, it began to bud. The buds swelled to these brilliant blossoms. Four days later, Winter came back with a vengeance. Even though we covered it with a pillowcase, our tiny tree is now a stick again. But the story is not over…

 

New Year, New Day, New Light

0Photography by Jeremy Parker, Reno, NV            January 2019

My son recently photographed the view from his bedroom window as sunrise revealed light snow which had fallen quietly in the night. I contrast his view of snow and the Virginia Foothills with my view on the same morning nearly 2000 miles away on the South Texas Gulf Coast. Snow is rare here. Many mornings I wake to dense fog, On other days I see mist rising from the lake behind our house as sunrise fills the sky with color.

new light, new choices, new mercy

new landscape

if I pay attention,

fill my soul with astonishment,

I can tell you …

it is never “just another day”

~ written with attention, astonishment,  gratitude, and recognition of poet Mary Oliver, who died last week.

Instructions for living a life –

Pay attention

Be astonished

Tell about it.

from Mary Oliver’s poem Sometimes, published in the book Redbird.